Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Poem for Norway

Passing months in my young TIMES: footloose in Norway from winter till SPRINGTIME.

Six months, one hundred and sixty five days or four thousand HOURS; regardless of your numeric, they ALL equate to new self-enlightened POWER.

Memories of cultures and people and PLACES; smiles so wide they could
fill empty SPACES.

Friendships forged on the rock of distant LANDS; left to pleasant memories when my feet come home AGAIN.

Norway I will miss you surely, I dare not contest THAT. The Fjords of your landscape; upon my heart they have TRACKED.

Your northern sea was the most pleasant of SIGHTS; through my window, its ocean breeze whispered quietly in the NIGHT.

Furthermore I will miss you Kristiansand, you were a lovely modest TOWN; the downtown square, the Nordic church that towered above the cobblestone GROUND.

I will remember walking through your roads in the cold winter AIR; gazing at the snow-covered fish market without a single nagging CARE.

The colors of your houses and the crisscrossing of your STREETS; I will tuck them away and memorize them all like my own private TREAT.

But now I sadly miss the nation that I call HOME; its time to say goodbye to Norway- its time to finish my ROAM.

So farewell rocky coastlines and the land of midnight SUN; goodbye to the place where Viking legends and grandiose history was once SPUN...
Goodbye Norway; a piece of my heart you have WON.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Trek Through Austria, The Czech Repubic, Germany and Amsterdam

This past week, I traveled like I have never traveled before. For once in my life, I felt like a true world traveler, marching across an unfamiliar continent like a sultan conquering new lands. Yesterday I looked at my eyes in the mirror and smiled- I smiled at what they have seen. I know it sounds strange, but after visiting 6 countries in one month, I am left alone in my quite dorm with peculiar feelings to which I cannot describe. However, it’s time to buckle down and study vigorously for my finals, and then, I will meet two of my best pals (Matt Benshoof and John Winters) in Rome for one final trek through Europe.
To translate some things about last week's trip, I have composed a handy little collection of interesting figures about my experience...ENJOY!

Number of Modes of Transportation Used- 6
Bus, Car, Plane, Train, Tram and Bicycle

Number of Different Countries my Feet Touched- 6
Austria, The Czech Republic, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark (just the airport) and Norway

Number of Currencies Used- 3
The Norwegian Kroner, The Czech Kroner and the European Euro

Number of Pictures Taken- 345
I took the most in Amsterdam

Number of Flights- 3
Norway to Germany, Prague to Eindhoven, Amsterdam to Norway

Longest Car Ride- 5 Hours
Drove all night through Germany to get to Austria.

Pounds of Chocolate consumed- Unknown
Austrian chocolate is the most delectable chocolate I have ever tasted.

Number of Cuisines that I Ate- 6 (that I can recall)
Austrian, Bavarian (German), Indian, Italian, Chinese and American-style

Number of Languages Heard- Unknown
I definitely heard German, Austrian, Norwegian and Czech before Amsterdam. However, I easily heard dozens after that.

Number of Souvenirs/Gifts Purchased- 12
I brought back a colorful pile of little gifts and memorable items for myself.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My trip to the Celtic world began as a quiet night drive from Dublin to the historic Irish city Galway. As we drove across the small island that is Ireland, I peered blindly through my window into the darkness and thought excitedly, “I can’t wait to see what the countryside looks like in the light.” With a three hour drive ahead of us, I turned on the radio and flicked through an unfamiliar broadcast of Irish melodies and accents, until finally reaching a recognizable tune (or at least a tune that that the girls in the backseat agreed to).
After spending the night in a rather stinking hostel, smelling like a conglomeration of body odor, flatulation and mold, we woke up early undaunted to charge Galway on foot. Like God smiling down on our trip, the sun shone brightly overhead, blessing my first real sight of Ireland with happy spring weather. As we walked into Galway’s center, the roads narrowed into pedestrian walkways filled with happy shoppers, bright colors and the occasional Irish tune strumming on a violin. Strangely, I was still recovering from a recent flu-like sickness, yet I remember feeling like my cheerfulness in that moment remedied all lingering symptoms.
We didn’t waste much time in Galway however, as the Cliffs of Moher awaited us less than a few hours away. We jumped into the rental (on the wrong side of the car might I remind you, as they drive on the left side of the road in Ireland and Scotland) and entered the rolling countryside. Instantly the narrow streets of Galway city were replaced with rolling green hills, dotted with crumbling stone walls and fluffy white sheep. One castle and one stop at a particularly scenic segment of land later, we finally arrived at the infamous Cliffs of Moher.
As we walked to the cliffs, the rolling countryside suddenly plummeted into the sea as if Ireland had been ripped violently from a primordial continent and tossed into the ocean. I approached the side and gazed down with the emotions of a curious little boy, marveling at the leviathan scale of it all- there were so many mesmerizing characteristics to take in at once. If I looked far below, I could see hundreds of sea gulls flying in-between the cliffs below with waves of white splashing against the rocky wall. But if I looked further up the cliff sides, I could see multi-layered colors within the rock, like the characteristics of a super decked chocolate cake. My heart swelled as I realized that, surely, as I ran my eyes down the layers of rock, I was gazing back into time, each layer being another million-year-old step backward.
The next 36 hours became a bit of a fun blur. We visited the city of Limerick, ate big meals, laughed outrageously, explored old graveyards, drank delicious Guinness in small Irish pubs, and finally, rode into Dublin on the morning of Saint Patty’s day. We booked a hostel, which compared to our first experience in Galway, was like a fancy condo. However, we hardly spent two hours there before heading to the Guinness factory for an extensive tour of the magic behind the flavor that I so enjoy, followed by a foaming glass of beer on top of the factory. From up here, you could enjoy a panoramic view of Dublin. Looking out over its industrial skyline of smoking chimney stacks and rugged brick buildings while holding a Guinness in my hand (on Saint Patty’s Day might I add), I felt overwhelmingly excited to stretch my legs in the city.
That night, I refused to drink anything but Guinness, which I swear to you, in Ireland, tastes like nectar brewed from the Gods. The first sip is my favorite. It pours across your tongue, soaking your taste buds in the rich flavor of a full-bodied beer, and then quenches your dry throat, which has been made hoarse from shouting across the pub. At last, you lick away the thick white foam mustache that only a good Guinness can give you and let out a refreshing sigh…
On Saint Patty’s Day in Dublin, the streets are filled with painted faces and silly green hats- the pubs are filled with authentic Irish music and singing voices- and on this particular Saint Patty’s Day, I was filled with nothing short of outright intense happiness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts from Ireland and Scotland

March 22, 2010

As I write this opening, an overwhelming sense of astonishment seems to confound me…
This past week, I traveled the Celtic world as I have dreamed about since I was a skinny adolescent boy. I drove through the green country side of Ireland, gazed down the jagged cliffs of Moher, drank a beer in Dublin on Saint Patty’s Day, climbed the Scottish Highlands and touched the historic stone of medieval castles. Yet despite my valid effort to describe these things, language has a certain inadequacy, a certain inherent deficiency in translation.
Quite frankly, I am lost for words, not in aptitude, but by the very limitations presented by language itself when expressing the profound. I could never fully sum the accumulation of wonderment, new friendship, and emotions that resulted in this trip. Nor could I fully translate the atmosphere of Dublin in the late hours of Saint Patty’s day, or the way a tiny Scottish village looks in the morning light.
But I suppose that’s why I have decided to wander, as I have never truly believed in the transcendentalist doctrine of some writers, who, living in their cabins stripped away from the bustle of society, suggested that the mind is the only necessary vessel. I argue, as significant as the mind may be, there is no supplement for direct experience- there is no substitute for smelling, tasting, seeing, breathing, hearing, feeling the richness of this magnificent world. And for those sound in mind, embracing the truth of open-mindedness, I believe that wandering can advocate extraordinary things, such as wisdom, tolerance and maybe even, spiritual abundance.
Wow, I’m having some deep thoughts tonight! Perhaps I will leave you with this as my introduction and continue soon with my separate blogs for Ireland and Scotland…

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things that I Miss/Valentines Day Party

Yes, it has been too long since my last post...
This is partly my own fault and partly the fault of bad luck (regrettably a part of almost every traveler's experience I must say). The good news is I now have a functioning computer in my dorm again, and my connection to the world feels rekindled once more. But fortunately, the bad luck of my computer crashing was merely a tiny road bump on a long trip that still lies ahead.
Since it's been roughly three weeks since my last post, I thought it would be fun to post a randomness of pictures from the Valentine's Day Party (and one picture from the Austrian fiesta...hosted by two awesome Austrian girls), while making a list of the top twelve things that I miss most in The United States. Think of it as a brief Norway collage- something to get you caught up quickly in a cluttered sort of way. And so, may I present to you my top twelve list of things that I miss most (and enjoy the pictures of course)...

Top Twelve Things I Miss the Most in the U.S.A. (the order is not precise except for number 1)

1) My family, friends and girlfriend
2) Beef- good affordable beef
3) A dentist that works more than once a week
4) Pancakes and waffles smothered in maple syrup
5) People saying thank you when you hold the door open for them
6) My truck
7) A microwave
8) Ounces, Pounds, Miles, Yards, Feet, Inches, Fahrenheit
9) Signs written in English
10)Newspapers written in English
11)A six pack that costs less than 16 dollars (or a beer in the club that costs less then $10)
12)My cell phone

Okay, so after reviewing my post, it's obvious that I require a separate food list entirely. This is not to say that I do not enjoy the food in Norway(just look at one of my earlier posts if you do not believe me). It's just that...well...when I get back home I will savor some things like I have never savored before.

Dylan's Additional List of Food that he Misses
1) Ranch Dressing (where the heck is the ranch! I speak of it as if it is a legend)
2) A home cooked meal prepared by the one and only; my momma
3) A meat-filled, mayonnaise-saturated sandwich, heaping with garnish on sliced American bread
4) Granola Bars (they do not exist in Norway...why god, why?)
5) Mexican food (your a long way away from La Mesa Todo)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Weekend in Larvik

The other day my mother asked me like I was a little school boy on his first day of kindergarten, "Are you making a lot of new friends?"
My response- "I'm making the right friends."
Tonight the international students are attending an all-you-can-eat cruise to Denmark. It seems fun and adventurous enough- pay 250 Kroner and eat/drink all your stomach can withstand. However, after my trip to Larvik this past weekend, I can't help but feel content in my blue pajama pants, drinking Pepsi while I study European Politics.

O where to begin?

Firstly, I believe a thank you is in order. That being said; thank you Mats for making me feel comfortable since my first day in Norway, thank you Hans for inviting me into your home, and thank you Eric for driving through hours of icy, winding roads so that I could see Heddal Church. And of course, thank you to Han's parents (whose names I do not wish to butcher with my spelling)for introducing me to some Norwegian culture, for letting me eat your food, for buying us all beer, and for giving me a warm bed to sleep in. It may not seem like much to you, but your hospitality was a comforting moment for me in this place so far away from everything familiar to what I call home.

Now when I talk of this past weekend, three things come to mind. One- going to a national cross country skiing championship. Two- listening to records of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Bob Marley, and Crosby, Steels, Nash and Young. And Three- seeing an 800-year-old wooden church.

Needless to say, if you know me (or even just of me, at that haha), you can probably guess that Heddal Church was the climax of my weekend in Larvik. Just imagine...

We arrived at dusk when there was just a hint of light still glowing in the sky. As I walked into the old graveyard surrounding Heddal, I stood frozen before the church. I felt as if I should bow or kneal to something so magnificent. Like a scene only found in paintings, fluffy snowflakes drifted around the church in a setting of blue twilight caressed in winter stillness. I thought, "this is why I came to Norway".
Inside Heddal, rows of pews stood before a back ground of painted walls, drawn by the hands of people long before or great-great-great ancestors. I looked at the ancient altar in front of my eyes disbelievingly.
I contemplated, "For nearly 800 years the voices of the long dead once filled these walls". It`s strange to utter, but the construction of a church made entirely of wood, in a way, made it seem as if ancient voices could somehow be absorbed into the porous timber...
I couldn't´t help but notice how every one in the group touched the "original" parts of the church solemnly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Culture Shock

Day 20

At first, I planned to blog about the “Blow Out” international student party that took place on Thursday. However, I thought it would be more enlightening to write briefly about a culture shock that I have been experiencing here in Norway.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge that every Norwegian that I have met thus far is not only nice, but appreciative of the differences we share. The signs of democracy, open-mindedness and an evolved society resonate from every street corner and classroom here in Norway, and as an American, I am lucky to get the chance to be here. That being said, I will move on to my next point.
In the United States (as I’ve realized more from living in Norway), we are actually quite chivalrous to one another! I guess, in being confined to the homogeneous mixture of my society, and having only spent a few weeks of my life in Mexico and The Bahamas, I was quite unaware of this fact. But I speak the truth! In the American public setting, it is not all that uncommon to see people holding doors open for each other, or to hear the exchange of such words as “please” and “excuse me” between complete strangers. But hear in Norway (as I was told in my second international student meaning), you will rarely hear the word “please, you will seldom see men holding doors open for women, and you will almost never here the phrase “excuse me”.
Now...when being exposed to this for the first time, a recluse American might ask, “Are Norwegians or worse yet, is Norwegian society innately rude?”
I would need to politely remind this American (who I unfortunately find myself being in brief moments), that this behavior is not the result of rudeness; it is merely the result of a different society that has formed thousands of miles away from our homes, culture, and history. Needless to say, it has taken some adjusting to. And even now, three weeks into my trip, I still find myself feeling mildly offended when I say “excuse me” after being bumped into by a stranger, and the gesture is not returned.
I would like to conclude by saying, these mannerisms, although hard to adjust to, are quite subtle. They are surface deep if you will, and I can guarantee, if you fall on the ice (unfortunately as I had to learn with a cup of coffee in my hand), or if you need help with Norwegian translation, or if you are just lost and need directions, Norwegians are always friendly and happy to help.